This book represents one of MacDonald’s more bleak novels. In it, a middle manager in Florida is stuck in a rut during the summer when his English wife takes their children to England for a visit. He happens upon a 23-year-old wild rich girl, sort of a Paris Hilton type if you can imagine a Paris Hilton in the Eisenhower years. MacDonald did, so they must have been out there.
At any rate, the fellow falls in with this woman, falls into adultery, falls into drunkeness, falls into additional drunken adultery, slacks off on the job and loses it and then ends up with a three week blackout period after which he really has no taste for the rich girl, but when her rich father makes him a job offer to ease the whole kept-man thing, Craig thinks it over, but ultimately decides that he’s going to leave town, with his wife when she returns if she’ll come after what he’s done. The book ends there, although there’s a little hint in a phone conversation he has with his wife over a bad 1958 trans-Atlantic connection that perhaps she will have something to confess when she gets home.
The book reminded me somewhat of Kim du Toit’s Vienna Days in that the character starts out sympathetic, and you feel bad for him when he makes a couple bad choices that put him in a tight spot. But eventually they keep making the bad decisions, and I lose patience with them and lose empathy for them.
Now that I’ve sort of panned the book, let me pan the cover. Clemmie is a 23-year-old, lithe, small woman. This is the cover:
That is not a 23-year-old woman. That, my friends, is someone’s mother who is trying to put a little sizzle back in her love life after an Oprah marathon on Oxygen. Someone that the artist must have wanted to impress. Maybe even sizzle with.